Sept. 18, 2013
What do you find if you walk into the office of a University of Notre Dame head coach? What’s on the walls often provides some insight into the past, the interests and the philosophies of each of those individuals. During the 2013-14 athletic season, we’ll take you into each of those offices and show and tell you about some items of significance and why they are meaningful.
Heard about the importance of family at the University of Notre Dame?
You can’t miss that angle when you wander through the office of University of Notre Dame volleyball coach Debbie Brown.
Walk through the door into Brown’s space and you’re immediately facing an outer wall containing 15 framed team pictures of her Irish volleyball teams.
“Coaching is about players — and providing a great experience for them. That’s why adding team pictures every year made sense,” she says.
One slight problem ensued — only 15 of the same frames existed, so only Brown’s first 15 Notre Dame teams made the cut (so far). On her “to-do” list is to update the team photo wall and add the last seven years (and more to come) of team photos. Her current team shot always receives preferred treatment in a special gold frame that sits on a round table in her office.
“It’s been a while since anything has been added,” Brown says. “We had every intention of putting the team shots up every year, but then we just ran out of the frames.”
Sprinkled throughout the office are several dozen family photos, most including husband Dennis (Notre Dame’s University spokesman and assistant vice president) and sons Connor and Ryan, both current Notre Dame undergraduates.
“My birthday is in October and every year Dennis gives me a framed picture of our two sons,” Brown says.
Since Ryan is now 19, that means there are 19 shots of the two boys spread around the office.
“That’s the most important thing in here, even though it has nothing to do with my team,” says Brown.
For Brown, that comprises her “family” — the combination of year after year of her Irish volleyball players, combined with her own personal family.
Volleyball is impossible to miss, as you assess what else sits atop bookshelves and can be found framed on walls:
- Four trophies signifying BIG EAST Conference coach-of-the-year awards, to go with 10 more plaques on the wall recognizing various coach-of-the-year honors (four from the Midwestern Collegiate Conference).
- A large montage of images feting her 500th career victory — a 3-0 win over Seton Hall on Sept. 30, 2006.
- The scroll denoting the honorary monogram presented to her by the Notre Dame Monogram Club in 1999.
- Her framed red, number-five USA jersey from competition leading to the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow (Dennis wants it known he handled the framing part). She was a co-captain of that squad.
- A participation certificate from the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea (she served as an assistant coach for the United States squad) along with a team photo.
- A photo of the bronze-medal-winning USA team from the 1990 World Volleyball Championship in Beijing (Brown was an assistant coach for that squad as well).
- A Japanese volleyball magazine cover from 1979 showing Brown and her United States bronze medal from the Spartakiad in Russia.
- Three volleyballs — one for her 500th career win, a second for her 500th win at Notre Dame and a third for her 600th career win (3-1 over Buffalo on Sept. 1, 2012).
- Six participation awards for various BIG EAST volleyball titles.
- A shot of Brown carrying the torch in January 2002 as part of the Olympic Torch Relay leading up to the Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
“That was a special opportunity. My parents were able to be there to see it, and my boys were old enough to understand what it meant. For me it was a highly emotional experience to be able to be a part of that,” she says.
In the volleyball outer offices are 26 framed color photos of previous Notre Dame volleyball team MVP selections — with two at the lower right left vacant, with the inscription “Future ND MVP.”
There are also four plaques signifying team academic awards won during Brown’s time with the Irish — as presented by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
Finally, there are two NCAA plaques — one honoring Notre Dame as the 2003 national statistical team leader in blocks and another recognizing Lauren Brewster for leading the country in that same category in that same year.
Particularly dear to Brown are three ceramic sculptures created by her late father, Charlie Landreth — one of a leprechaun and two showing volleyball-related poses.
“My dad’s artwork is pretty special to me. Since I graduated from USC, when I came to Notre Dame my dad had no real intention of showing any interest in anything here other than volleyball. But less then a year later he was completely converted to being a huge Notre Dame fan,” Brown says.
Associate head coach Robin Davis notes that behind the office door on the floor is a black-and-white shot of Brown celebrating with her USC teammates after beating UCLA in 1976. That marked USC’s first volleyball win over UCLA, and the Trojans went on to claim NCAA titles in both ’76 and 1977.
There’s not much missing from Brown’s resume — or what you find in her office.
An El Segundo, Calif., product, she’s had a dominating playing career at the NCAA, Olympic and international levels and qualifies as one of the greatest all-around players in the history of the sport.
After six seasons as head coach at Arizona State (including five NCAA Championship appearances), she’s now in season number-23 at Notre Dame, with 17 previous NCAA appearances in the rear-view mirror.
And, she’s all about her own and her volleyball “families” — as those walls will tell you.
— John Heisler, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations